Kaitlyn M. Erdman Memorial WINGS Award

Kaitlyn Erdman was a 2018 recipient of the WINGS award. When awarded, Kaitlyn was a nursing student working on her bachelor's in nursing at Methodist College in Peoria. She traveled from Chenoa to Peoria three to four days a week, while working full-time at OSF in Bloomington. She and her fiancé, Oscar, had a one-year-old daughter, Tinley.

On June 15, 2018–just three weeks after receiving her WINGS award–Kaitlyn was tragically killed in a car accident on her way to work on I-55 near Lexington. She was 25 years old.

In 2019, the award was renamed to honor her and is now the Kaitlyn M. Erdman Memorial WINGS Award. Kaitlyn epitomized the intent and purpose of the WINGS Award.

What is WINGS

The WINGS award was created and is funded by recipients of the YWCA Women of Distinction award. Winners of the Women of Distinction award have a shared commitment to give back to other women in McLean County so they created this award to encourage development in women, both professionally and personally, through mentoring and financial support. The award is given annually to a Woman to Improve her skills for a Notable purpose which allows her to Grow professionally and to achieve Success.

Who is eligible

A woman is eligible for the WINGS award who demonstrates her commitment to professional and personal growth and to service in McLean County. Past WINGS winners are not eligible to apply. Please note women applying for a WINGS Award may not be a nominee for the YWCA Women of Distinction award in the same year.

How can the award be used

WINGS awards, up to $1,500, will be granted to a recipient (or recipients) for a future endeavor that helps them grow professionally and personally. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Workshops and seminars (tuition and class fees)
  • Professional conferences (registration fees)
  • Software, books, and other materials related to the endeavor
  • Certification preparation work, exams, registration or licensing
  • Local opportunities for development, such as the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership McLean County or Multicultural Leadership Program
  • Other costs incurred as a result of the approved endeavor (such as child care, transportation, lodging and meals for out-of-town activities, etc.)


If you have any questions about the WINGS award, please call (309) 662-0461, ext. 272 or email ywdevelopment@ywcamclean.org.

Kaitlyn Erdman was a 2018 WINGS awardee and was the mother of Tinley.



In 2008, Brianna Welch was a recent college graduate who envisioned a future attending medical school. But, in combination, Welch’s experiences volunteering in Bloomington-Normal and earning the WINGS scholarship award led her to pursue another path—a path pursuing public health.

While volunteering as a translator at the Community Health Care Clinic (CHCC) in Normal, Welch transferred the concepts she learned in college to a community-based medical setting. “The opportunity I had to work at the CHCC was huge, especially as I was trying to figure out what my career was going to look like,” Welch said.

This career, Welch imagined, would involve focusing on healthy outcomes through preventative medicine with a career as a doctor. With the WINGS award earned in 2008, Welch studied for and took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

“I love the mission of YWCA and was so grateful for the opportunity I got with the WINGS award,” Welch said. “The whole process of being able to meet the women who were part of the WINGS award and the Women of Distinction, and just getting to hear their stories, was a huge inspiration.”

As Welch’s journey continued, she applied for fellowships before applying to medical school. After she was offered a fellowship as a part of the Public Health Associate Program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Welch moved to North Carolina.

After her fellowship ended, Welch accepted a full-time position as a social clinical research specialist with the Department of Public Health in Raleigh.

As she continues on her professional journey, Welch hopes to continue to adapt and pursue whatever passions call to her.

“I hope to continue living out my principles and values."


As a sophomore in college, Kamaya Thompson knew her vision. “In order to strengthen our communities, we must change what we think by changing what we see. That is my life purpose: to change what we see,” she wrote in her application for a WINGS scholarship award.

In 2016, Thompson continued to pursue her self-defined purpose through her passion for theatre. In 2009, Thompson founded Only Punks Pull Triggers (OPPT)—a performing arts organization dedicated to violence prevention and conflict resolution skills in response to personal experiences related to gun violence.

A Chicago native, Thompson applied for the award in 2010 to advance the troupe’s marketing efforts with the goal of helping OPPT expand and grow.

“Receiving the WINGS award was a very pivotal moment in my life and an experience I’ll never forget. It gave me the confidence and motivation I needed to keep pursuing my dreams,” said Thompson, who received the award while she was a theatre arts student at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Thompson currently works as a drama instructor at South Shore Cultural Center (SSCC) in Chicago, where she teaches theatre arts to children ages eight to 12.

She also lends her voice to current issues in society.

“I have continued to write plays and poems that address issues of civil and human rights, particularly regarding gay marriage and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”